Director: William F. Claxton
Starring: Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley, Paul Fix
How many eyes does horror have? How many times will terror strike?
Cole Hillman is having trouble with the ever-increasing amount of rabbits that are invading his property. He seeks a solution that will reduce their population without using poison to kill them all off and gets help from the scientists Roy and Gerry. They decide that it will be a good idea to use hormones to disrupt their breeding cycle.
While experimenting with this, a test bunny gets loose and not too long after a horde of giant rabbits are on the loose and after humans to feed on. After several dead bodies are found, they try to kill them all off by blowing up the mine that they have started to use as their nest. However, not all of them were killed and now the horde of giant rabbits are out for revenge!
Night of the Lepus is based on the novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon from 1964. We have had a lot of different killer animals movies during the times, but this was probably the first killer rabbit movie. If it was not, then please do leave me a comment and enlighten me. What’s funny about this is that it was done seriously and straight. There’s no tongue-in-cheek humour here and they go out of their way to try to make the rabbits seem huge and scary, which of course fails since they are still fluffy and cute bunnies.
MGM figured out that rabbits aren’t really scary and even went to great lengths in trying to hide the fact that the monsters of the movie where rabbits with their promotional material. They even changed the title from the working title Rabbits into Night of the Lepus to avoid people from skipping the film based on only the monsters.
The victims these giant rabbits leave behind them are covered in very light red blood, but hilariously enough does not have any bite marks or wounds. William F. Claxton had done mostly TV work, including a few episodes on The Twilight Zone before directing this film. As mentioned, he tried whatever he could do make the rabbits scary and should be applauded for his efforts in that regard.
It’s funny to see what type of cast they got for this film. Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley and Paul Fix are where all experienced actors by that time and I cannot imagine what made them say yes to a movie with giant killer rabbits. They all seem very uninterested here and where probably only in it for the paycheck. It’s all stiff performances and they seem even bored at times.
There are some scenes where it looks like real rabbits are treated badly. I’m not sure how much care was put into protecting the animals, especially considering this was shot in the early 70’s. So it might be hard to watch for big animal lovers.
Night of the Lepus is a hilarious movie. A giant rabbit movie done 100% serious is not something you see everyday and if you are a fan of movies that are “so bad it’s good” then this should definitely be enjoyable for you. I revisit it every now and then and find it easy to overlook its flaws and enjoy the ketchup-smeered raging rabbits.